Although third-party applications have long been available to allow various MP3 players to sync with iTunes, Palm’s Media Sync feature is fundamentally different in that it actually uses Apple’s vendor and product id so that the Pre is recognized as an Apple device. Older copy-protected songs and, naturally, iPhone apps won’t sync with Palm’s smartphone but otherwise DRM-free songs and even photos from iPhoto will transfer without effort. It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to this.
Not surprisingly, many of the Palm Pre engineering and development team are former Apple employees, including Jon Rubinstein, one of the designers of the original iPod. The move should provide an easier path for iPhone converts, though it’s also inherently risky, since Apple could just as easily update iTunes to block Palm’s handset from accessing its software – potentially initiating a cat and mouse game between the two.